Why Gnocchi Isn't Technically Pasta

It is taken for granted that gnocchi is a pasta by even the most authoritative entities, but can they be blamed? Food blogger Corey Williams always assumed gnocchi was a type of pasta because of not only how it's served, but where it's usually listed on dinner menus, per My Recipes.

This confusion intensifies when some Italian chefs (whose cuisine pasta is synonymous with) also refer to a certain type of gnocchi as pasta. "I can tell you there are many types of gnocchi, some of which are made with a pasta dough called impasto in Italian," professional Chef Deborah Dal Fovo told Life Hacker.

By what standards is gnocchi judged if it fails to qualify as pasta? The best place to start would be at the meaning of the word. As most of us are aware at this point, pasta is an Italian food. Directly translated, it means: ”paste," referring to the flour dough used in pasta, per Pasta Evangelists.

What makes pasta pasta?

Standard pasta is a product of unleavened dough (dough without yeast), eggs, salt and water. The word gnocchi (plural for gnoccho), does not give any clues to its make up. According to Delallo, an Italian food company based in Pennsylvania, the word is also of Italian origin and means knuckle (obviously relating to its appearance).

Gnocchi is dominantly made up of potato, a substitute for flour dating back to the desperate times of a 16th century famine when the Spanish introduced potatoes to Italy, according to global food and drink guide, Saveur. Wheat became outrageously expensive during that period and those who were less than wealthy, substituted the gluten food source with potatoes. These are the humble beginnings of gnocchi.

This would then explain why the Southern Italians refer to impasto as a pasta, per Deborah Dal Fovo, per Life Hacker. So if gnocchi is not a pasta what is it? According to Corey Williams, via My Recipes, it's technically a dumpling.